“We’re not your usual Airbnb. We’re not in the business of it,” says Cameron Foster. In 2017, he and his wife, Noelle, residents of Seattle, had a daughter attending George Washington University. “We wanted to see our daughter more regularly,” Cameron says. So they decided to buy a house in Old Town Alexandria.
They chose one, built in 1860, sight unseen. It turned out to be more of a fixer-upper than the couple had been hoping for. “You could see through the exterior walls,” recalls Cameron.
“Initially, we said it was the worst investment we’d ever made as a couple,” adds Noelle. But now, they say that it was a stroke of good luck. The pair hired an architect and a contractor familiar with the city of Alexandria’s Board of Architectural Review. They worked with Noelle, an interior designer by trade, to revitalize the two-bedroom into a livable home for the couple. They also added a little extra flair. Because the BAR forbids structural changes to the exterior of the house, they painted it a statement color. “Liberty blue,” Noelle says.
“I called it ‘blueberry,’” Cameron jokes.
Within a year, the Fosters were splitting their time between Seattle and Alexandria. Now that their daughter has graduated, the couple spends a little less time in Old Town but says they put too much effort into the home and have too many great relationships with neighbors to consider selling. “We come back every month or every two months for at least a week at a time,” says Noelle.
It was last March that they decided to try their hands at renting their home out on Airbnb. Less than a year later, they heard from London-based company Eviivo. “I got a call from the company saying we were a finalist,” says Cameron. They were in the running for Eviivo’s International Week of the Host award for hottest property in America. A week later, they got a Zoom call notifying them that they’d won.
What makes it a winner? For one thing, as of press time, Liberty House had five stars from all 51 guests who had rated it. That’s because they made it a point to have the amenities they value at five-star hotels, the couple says. “We like nice towels. We like nice robes,” says Cameron as an example.
But Noelle’s design, which combines antiques with brand-new touches, is what gets guests reserving the home and what impressed judges. “I wanted it to be not quirky, not eclectic, but to have a visual interest,” she explains. “I wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing everywhere you looked in the house—full of conversation starters.” Those include the home’s original mantel, but also high-speed Wi-Fi and a smart TV.
The latest development for Liberty House is the inclusion of experiences and local products. Alexandria boutique Manse has products for sale in the house. Now, Noelle says she wants to build relationships with local vendors, from chefs to florists, to add amenities to the rental, all of which augments its status as an Airbnb that’s far beyond the ordinary.